As the Flames reemerge from their rebuilding years, a lot has been made about their defensive corps. The team has three of the best locked up long term, and considerable depth in both the NHL and the AHL. The Flames built around their blueline, and are going to reap the benefits for some time.
Until last season, those discussions also included Dennis Wideman, who was coming off a 50+ point year. Even if he regressed in 2015-16, many thought that he would still be a 30-point player at the very least. After last season, some aren’t sure he’ll crack the top six.
The Year Before
It didn’t go well.
As soon as the Flames’ season started going off the rails, it was quite clear which defenders were underperforming. The finger pointing was mostly, and rightfully, at Wideman who was the biggest flop per dollar.
His possession performances were slightly worse than the year before, but the biggest and most damaging drop off was his scoring. In 2014-15, he could cover up with poor corsi by scoring 56 points. In 2015-16, not so much. He scored zero goals at 5v5, and only potted nine assists. It feels important right now to mention that, on average, he got around 30% of the ice time per game at 5v5.
To put it in context for his career, he posted his lowest P/60 since his rookie year, his lowest ICF/60 ever, his worst 5v5 CFRel%, his lowest shot total ever, and pretty much everything across the board worst ever. It was a bad, bad year.
Oh yeah, he also got suspended for 19 games (nine needlessly) and got injured a ton, too. It was a terrible year for poor Earl.
Going through a lot of the chatter on this website and other Flames forums, there’s been a lot of talk that Wideman, only two seasons removed from 50 points (102.56 5v5 PDO), could have a bounce-back in a career year.
A lot of that is nonsense. As established, Wideman’s on-ice results have been going downhill. Since joining the Flames, his CFrel% has dropped from 0.29 to -4.37 while his OZS% has slightly jumped from 30.61% to 33.33%. More tellingly, his DZS% have fallen from 38.06% in 2012-13 to 31.73%. He isn’t trusted with the defensive aspect of the game anymore and he isn’t a powerplay specialist anymore (88.61 CF60). The data suggests that he’s becoming a victim of age, and could perhaps continue to slip this next season.
But I’m not going to completely dismiss that initial argument as bunk. It’s also true that his results are heavily influenced by newest Oiler Kris Russell (I’m still celebrating), someone he won’t have to play with this year. Observe:
|5v5 partner||CF% Together||Wideman CF% Seperate|
(Remember: small sample sizes. Wideman’s spent 10% of his TOI with Hamilton, compared to around 27% with Russell and 30% with Engelland.)
There is still hope out there. There are two potential partners he’s not a disaster with, and if he can stick with either Hamilton or Giordano, he can probably be usable throughout the course of a season.
Wideman’s 2016-17 all comes down to pairings and usage. If he gets the luck of the draw and gets to play with one of Hamilton or Giordano, perhaps we can expect a modest 20-30 point season. I doubt he gets first unit powerplay time over Hamilton this year, so he probably won’t get higher than 30.
However, if someone takes that second pairing from him, it’s going to be a long, long season for all involved.
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